Peer pressure also known as social pressure refers to the external influence an individual or a peer group exerts that influences others to conform to them by changing their earlier values, behaviours or attitudes. Social groups affected may include those to which an individual may have previously belonged to like political parties and trade unions or even cliques in which membership may not be clearly defined. However, an individual does not necessarily need to be a member of a particular group so as to be affected by peer pressure. One may as well identify some dissociative groups with which one may wish to shun associating with and thus behave contrary to the groups norms (Kevin, p.67).
The youth have often fallen prey to peer pressure especially during adolescence thus terming peer pressure a hallmark of adolescent experience. There are some certain characters that frequently define peer conformity among the youth. These include taste, style, ideology, appearance and some values. Peer pressure is often characterized with episodes of adolescent risk taking due to the fact that these activities occur in the peer groups. And for this reason, peer pressure is double-edged with both pros and cons. Just to mention, affiliation and interaction with friends engaging in risky behaviours has proven to be a very strong predictor of an individual adolescents own behaviour (Stephanie, p.36). On the contrary, peer pressure can as well have positive implications on an individual adolescents behaviour. For instance, youths being pressured by their peers towards joint academic effort or volunteering for charity.
However much popular adolescents who are socially accepted often have some of the most positive experiences and most opportunities, they are the most socialized in their groups and thus susceptible to negative peer pressure. They are often accepted for the mere fact that they readily conform well to the norms of the teen culture both bad and good aspects. They are strongly absorbed in their peers acts like tobacco, alcohol and drugs. This is in turn likely to affect their academic performance compared to those of less socially accepted kids. This is possible because the more social students may use much of their time worrying about their social life and paying much attention to the social part of their lives compared to the time spent on academic work (Spear, p.82).
Having overviewed peer pressure, its prudent to point out that it has various negative implications in the society. Peer pressure is widely known to play a major role in the initiation process to drug and substance abuse. This has been proven across substances like nicotine, bhang and alcohol. Parental guidance and monitoring may play a, little role in regulating influence to use of drugs especially during the initiation process where little monitoring of adolescents by their parents is likely to make the adolescents cheaply succumb to peer coercion and undue influence into the usage of drugs and substance. However, during transition from experimental to regular use, parental monitoring may completely have no effect at all because the child shall have gotten used to it doing the initiation period. Caldwell and colleagues found out that peer pressure was a factor that led to heightened risk with regards to little parental monitoring, social gatherings and if the individual was susceptible to peer pressure (Kellie, p.15).
Other research has shown that peer pressure can act as a protective factor against drug and substance use. Some studies have shown evidences of genetic predispositions likely to influence drug and substance use. In nicotine study by Johnson and colleagues research found out that peer smoking had very little effect on nicotine dependence for the individuals with high risk allele. This is an indicator that social groupings do not play much significant role in the initiation to drug use as it may with others and appropriate interventions for such individuals ought to be developed with considerations (Kellie, p, 20).
Another negativity of peer pressure is on decision making; when an individual does not embrace a certain idea nor is in no way inclined towards embracing it, it is very obvious that the individual wont like to go against ones will and wish and would therefore wont like to go by it. But just by the fact of peer influence, one would find oneself compelled to embrace that particular idea due to pressure from ones peers. The person would feel okay embracing the idea while with his peers but would later on regret when alone after parting ways with the peers and would bear the consequences as an individual and not as a peer group. For instance, being influenced by your peers to go raving at night; something youve never done in your life. One may end up going for the rave but would end up completely being out of place because of the unfamiliarity with the events that occur in clubbing areas. The person will be exposed to noise which he is probably not used to, being awake the whole night which he has never experienced, so all in all the person shall have lost (B.B. Brown, p.363).
Individuality is one factor salient to each and every person. Every person has those unique traits distinguishing him from other people. Peer pressure may end up bringing down a persons individuality and identity. This is because on will deviate from his real self to trying parodying other peoples individuality thus ending up in a total mess with their reputation. This is where one changes ones tastes and preferences in favour of other peoples tastes and preferences in aspects like clothing, hairstyle, lifestyle and even music. To some of the youths, they even change their walking styles to fit the peer group to which they belong. Some even changing their religions just to match their peers while some completely stop going to church believing its the best lifestyle. The repercussions of this are that the society starts having a different perception of an individual and often use such people for bad examples in the society to an extent of advising their kids to shun such individuals company (B.B. Brown, p.367).
Equally important, one with peers who have either boyfriends or girlfriends is very likely to be influenced to also look for either a girlfriend or a boyfriend in order to match his colleagues. This is normally influenced from the idea that your peers would be sharing stories about their boyfriends or girlfriends and one would be there with nothing to say. So in order to have a story to tell, one would be compelled to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Also from the fact that the peers would bash one and make fun of one as having no boyfriend or girlfriend while giving referencing to ones years would make one feel so low hence going out to get a boyfriend or girlfriend so as to feel equal to the others. Consequently, the peers would start engaging in premarital sex just because they have opposite sex friends which would be immoral in the society from premarital pregnancies (Stephanie, p.41).
As mentioned earlier, peer pressure has also the positive benefits that come with it. Just the same way peer pressure can make one adopt poor behaviours, its the very same way it can make one earn good character traits. It helps one reflect on oneself an d promotes character contemplation in comparison to ones peers. It is with ones peers that some individuals acquire courage and confidence to address a gathering. In order to acquire positive traits from ones peers, one has to apply the rule of selective attention and selective retention. With selective attention, one will choose what to listen to and what not to listen to from his peers. With this, the individual will then pay attention only to the constructive discourses from his friends filtering the unproductive sections and only taking the productive aspects of it. Thereafter, the individual will only retain the productive aspects and discard the unproductive aspects of the discourses (Kellie, p.21).
The continued interaction with ones peers gives a person a glimpse of the external world beyond just the four walls of a persons house. The way of life of a persons peers gives one the other dimension of the world. Their thinking of different situations in life, their perception of the environment and reaction towards different phenomena exposes their friends to this type of life. With all this exposure, an individual shall have learnt new aspects of the external world which will in turn influence their choices in life. One will want to pursue the right courses in life and would in turn pass this kind of exposure to some other individuals (Kevin, p.71). Thus with peer pressure, the world tends to be smaller than its real geographical size.
In addition, those fortunate enough to get morally upright and ethical peer groups are capable of giving up their past bad behaviours for new changes in life. The peer group will assist in shaping such persons way of living to develop a positive personality. One with bad behaviours and relates with peers with good behaviours would definitely feel out of place and in order to be compatible with his friends, he would be forced to change his ways failure to which forces of nature will shape up his behaviour in order to continue interacting with his peers. The peers good behaviour would be inspirational to the bad-mannered individual. And because change is inevitable, one would have to change ones ways.
The influence of peer pressure to the youth has always been well established but one factor that has always been a challenge is to determine what age the peer effect begins to decline or rather diminishes. It has been established that peer pressure relating to use of alcohol and other drugs does not easily exist in elementary school and among young adolescents due to the limited access and exposure to these substances. Sumter and colleagues used the Resistance to Peer Influence Scale to measure the influence of peer pressure on persons and found out that the resistance to peer influence grew as one grew between 10 to 18 years old. This study also postulated that girls were more resistant to peer influence than boys, especially during mid-adolescence between 13 to 15 years of age. And indeed the higher susceptibility of teenage boys to peer pressure makes sense given the high rate of substance and drug use among male teens. For girls, increased positive parental social support and consistent discipline has proven to be a major contributor to the ability to resist peer pressure to drug and substance abuse (Spear, p.90).
In conclusion, since drug and substance use has been an outstanding effect of peer pressure, some control and prevention measures have been developed to counter it. One major tactic of combating this is, naturally, peer influence resistance skills. The known correlational relationship between use of drugs and substance and the relationship with other people that use drugs makes the resistance skills a natural treatment target. This training is purposed to assist individuals shun participation in substance use while keeping their membership in the peer group. Other resourceful interventions are normative educational approaches which raise awareness of possible dangers associated with substance use, training on alcohol awareness and classroom behaviour management.
B. B. Brown, "Adolescents' relationships with peers," In: R. M. Lerner & L. Steinburg (Eds.), Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, 2nd ed, New York: Wiley, 2004, p 363-394.
Kellie B. Gormly, "Peer Pressure -- for students and adults -- can be positive," Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 18, 2013, 13-23.
Kevin Durkin, "Peer Pressure", In: Anthony S. R. Manstead and Miles Hewstone (Eds.), The Blackwell Encyc...
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